Teachers of course, after all they are paid to do it. They are the experts aren’t they? After all, schools were set up to educate. I have read many reports of wonderful teachers who have achieved this and that. So a short blog as it’s clearly the teacher who REALLY educates the child.

One definition for education thus educate is to train, discipline (a person, a class of persons, a particular mental or physical faculty or organ), so as to develop some special aptitude, taste, or disposition. This is what teachers do isn’t it? Before schools no one learnt anything? Outside school no one learns anything?

Some years ago I asked the French education minister why there was no compulsory food technology in French schools. His reply “What and let education spoil our national heritage!” This has stuck in my mind to this day.

So what does formal education do. I am reminded of the two young boys and the dog. “I have taught my dog to whistle the national anthem” says the one young boy to the other. The other small boy bends down to listen to the dog then rises. “That’s a nonsense!” he shouts. “He can’t even whistle!” “I said that I had taught him”, came the reply. “I did not say that he had learnt it!”  OK so it’s not just the teacher who educates the child.

Teacher: “Give me a sentence starting with the letter ‘I'”.
Pupil: “I is-“ Teacher: “No, you must always say ‘I am’.”
Pupil: “Okay, ‘I am the ninth letter of the alphabet’.”

The OED definition of educate states: [f. L. ēducāt- ppl. stem of ēducāre to rear, bring up (children, young animals), related to ēdūcĕre to lead forth (see educe), which is sometimes used nearly in the same sense.] To bring up (young persons) from childhood, so as to form (their) habits, manners, intellectual and physical aptitudes.

We all know teachers who say that, after meeting a child’s parents, the question, “Why is this kid like this?” is fully answered. So given these comments and the OED definition it’s the parents that really educate the child. After all, parents do spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk, and the next twenty-four years telling them to sit down and shut up!

But why have teachers if it’s only the parents who educate the child? And who has the most influence on the whole child? Maybe it’s their friends who have the most influence on habits, manners and attributes? Wikipedia states that Education in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual, so friends by themselves are not the answer.

Having read all the latest blogs and tweets, it’s clearly technology we need to educate, and lots of it. Reading through the tweets and dailies, it’s hard to see how anyone was ever educated before the invention of the computer. Or maybe it’s the TV. They need more screen time then.

Let’s be honest with ourselves here, learning without direction may well educate. I have learnt much from my mistakes, but unstructured experiential learning has its limits. Maybe losing three fingers to learn how to not lose a fourth is not the best way to learn.

Maybe the real answer is that we all have a responsibility to provide the context and structure for learning and a method to reward the chunks of learning we make progress in (both within and outside the classroom). Then within a structured environment they educate themselves. What we ALL have to do is enable them to learn.

This is why I am so keen to develop learning methods and assessment systems that can be used by schools, parents AND children. It is why I am keen to make use all types of learning stimulus both paper and technology-based, virtual and real.

But resources by themselves do not educate either. Of course if we really want to educate we must also see OURSELVES as learners to. “Elder men, if they want to educate others, should begin by educating themselves.” Jowett Plato 1875. So we must start with ourselves. We should at least be working together! The biggest educator is life itself, but I am but a simple country bumpkin. Teacher: Billy, “Name two pronouns”. Billy: “Who, me? Teacher: “Well done!”

So I can’t answer fully my own question. But my excuse is that I am still learning.

Steve Cushing